It wouldnâ€™t be a stretch to say that David Hickok digs chocolate.
After reading â€œThe Essence of Chocolateâ€ last summer, the senior culinology major read five more books on the subject and bought a tempering machine, which liquefies chocolate.
â€œI like to experiment and create new flavor profiles,â€ said the Paso Robles native. â€œItâ€™s a labor-intensive process, but itâ€™s very rewarding.â€
He was one of only five students in the nation to be presented with a $1,000 scholarship from the Research Chefs Association, which he received March 8 at the organizationâ€™s annual Culinology Expo in Seattle.
â€œI was stoked,â€ he said.
He had originally planned on going into journalism when he first arrived at Fresno State, but when he learned of the universityâ€™s culinology program, which began in the fall of 2006, he switched majors.
â€œIâ€™ve been cooking since I was 16,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s something Iâ€™ve always loved to do. â€
Professor Klaus Tenbergn, who has taught Hickok in the past, said that he is always an innovative member of the class.
â€œHeâ€™s a very open-minded young gentleman,â€ Tenbergen said. â€œAnd highly intelligent. He is always coming up with new ideas, and he is always cooking, both in and outside of the classroom.â€
And one of his particular areas of interest is chocolate. Some of Hickokâ€™s new flavors include white chocolate with Chinese cinnamon, vanilla bean with red pepper, and a white chocolate bar filled with Baileyâ€™s caramel â€“â€“ all sweets that his friends get to test taste, a habit that has earned him the nickname of the Candy Man.
â€œMy friends are my guinea pigs,â€ Hickok said with a smile. â€œIâ€™ll be like, â€˜here, try this, eat this.â€™â€
But what his test-tasters donâ€™t realize is that these cocoa creations take a lot of careful attention to detail.
â€œIn fact, the one thing that most people donâ€™t realize about chocolate is that when it turns white, that doesnâ€™t mean itâ€™s old or spoiled,â€ Hickok said. â€œThe temperature changes the structure of the sugar crystals and when it sits out at the wrong temperature, the crystals come to the surface.â€
But when heâ€™s not experimenting with chocolate, Hickok enjoys cooking for himself and friends, even though he admits that he dreads washing all of the dishes afterwards.
One of his favorite dishes to prepare is coconut salmon with a smoked macadamia sauce, but admits that his all-time favorite thing to eat is pizza.
â€œIn Paso Robles I worked at this little place that served New York-style pizza,â€ he said. â€œThrowing the dough up in the air takes a lot of practice, but itâ€™s a lot of fun, too. You spin it and spin it, and see how big you can get it without tearing any holes in it.â€
The experience gave him an inside view of how the restaurant industry works, but he doesnâ€™t see himself going into that line of work exactly â€“â€“ though he would like to create dishes if given the opportunity.
â€œActually, what Iâ€™d really like to do is develop new products for food companies in a lab,â€ he said. â€œI think this would be more rewarding [than being a restaurant chef] because more people will taste what I help create.â€
But even with these career goals, Hickok is still holding on to his dreams that earned him his candy man nickname.
â€œMaybe someday [Iâ€™ll open a chocolate shop], if I keep working at it,â€ Hickok said, sharing that even dreams take practice. â€œIt takes a long time to learn.â€